07/19/2009 11:00PM

Third Pleasanton week appears to be a big hit

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Running a three-week fair meet at the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton, Calif., was more than just a summer-fairs experiment. It could be a precursor to a meet there during the spring.

With Bay Meadows closed and Golden Gate the only major track left running in Northern California, Pleasanton is looking to pick up race dates next year.

Rick Pickering, the CEO of the Alameda County Fair, was scheduled to meet with the Alameda County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday and the California Horse Racing Board at its Thursday meeting at Del Mar to discuss possible dates for 2010.

"I think there's a lot of buzz about what 2010 will look like," Pickering said.

Pickering expressed confidence that Alameda County supervisors, who must approve any additional race dates on the county-owned site, will agree that the track could sustain a non-fair meeting.

"It seems we have good regional support from fans," Pickering said.

In a time of declining handle nationwide, Pleasanton held its own at its recently completed meeting, which ended Sunday. It showed a 5 percent decrease in ontrack handle over the corresponding 2008 dates, which comprised two weeks at Pleasanton and one at Solano.

The third week of this year's meet proved a mixed blessing, handle-wise. It showed a 76 percent increase in average ontrack handle compared to the first week at Solano last year, yet it was down 24 percent compared with average daily handle for the first two weeks of this year's Pleasanton meet. A heat wave of 100-plus degree temperatures hurt overall attendance last week.

For the first two weeks of the meet, Pleasanton was down 19 percent ontrack from last year. The all-sources handle, including simulcast, out-of-state, and advance deposit wagering, also was down 19 percent.

Ontrack handle was down 21 percent for the three-day Fourth of July weekend, which was the opening weekend this year and closing weekend in 2008.

Pickering pointed out that Pleasanton raced three Wednesdays as the lone signal in the state this year, with Hollywood Park having dropped Wednesdays, while last year the track ran all 10 of its dates in conjunction with Hollywood Park.

Tribesman looks dominant

The Kjell Qvale homebred Tribesman confirmed his status as Northern California's best sprinter with an authoritative 1 1/2-length victory in the Sam J. Whiting on Saturday.

After cruising through pedestrian fractions in his comeback win June 5 at Golden Gate Fields, he cut out fractions of 21.97 and 43.81 seconds in the Whiting and ran six furlongs in 1:08.52.

His task was made easier when runner-up Bamaha Breeze's speedy stablemate Magic Texan was scratched. But jockey Russell Baze said that Tribesman broke so well that Magic Texan "wouldn't have been a factor" even if he had been in the race.

Trainer Roger Hansen said the Aug. 29 California State Fair Sprint would be Tribesman's next start.

"He's back to where he was," Hansen said of his sprint star, who won the Phoenix Gold Cup, California State Fair Sprint, and Cal Cup Sprint last year.

Tribesman's victory came as owner Qvale was enjoying his 90th birthday celebration. Qvale, who turned 90 one day earlier, left his birthday party at his San Francisco car dealership to watch the race from the Golden Gate Fields simulcast center.

The previous week, owner George Schmitt celebrated his 67th birthday in Pleasanton's winner's circle when Izzy Rules won the Juan Gonzalez Memorial.

Familiar leaders<

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Northern California's perennial leaders Baze and Jerry Hollendorfer topped the standings at the Pleasanton meeting.

Baze had 27 victories and hit the board with 58 of 83 mounts. Frank Alvarado was second with 13 victories, while Omar Figueroa and William Antongeorgi III tied for third with 10. The four won all five Pleasanton stakes, with Figueroa winning the Everett Nevin aboard Excessive Passion in addition to the Juan Gonzalez.

Hollendorfer had 11 victories from 24 starters, edging Billy Morey, who had 9 wins from 36 starters and also finished second 10 times. Jeff Bonde, who won the meet's first three stakes, wound up the three weeks in his home town with 8 wins from 13 starters.